Today we launch our state of the sector recommendations paper, which marks Local Charities Day. Voluntary organisations working in criminal justice play an essential role in people’s lives and have done so for over 300 years. At our recent annual conference LJ Flanders captured the ethos of voluntary organisations perfectly when he said, “The sector care about what they are doing. And they will do what they can to make it work.”
We have consistently seen this to be the case, with our state of the sector research showing time and time again the passion, resilience and flexibility of voluntary organisations working tirelessly to meet the ever changing and increasingly complex needs of their clients. But organisations are also experiencing significant challenges including but not limited to: a rise in service user need; more pressure on staff due to increased workloads; and organisations struggling to achieve full cost recovery on the contracts they are delivering.
It is important that these challenges are not only taken seriously, but are actively responded to if we want to see voluntary organisations thriving and able to continue to deliver the services so many rely on.
Our state of the sector recommendations paper sets out what Clinks will do to support our members to respond to these challenges, but also what we would like to see from charitable trusts and foundations, government, criminal justice agencies and also from voluntary organisations themselves.
How will Clinks respond?
Clinks will respond to the findings in our state of the sector research by…
1. Supporting organisations to explore alternative fundraising options: Voluntary organisations are diverse and rely on multiple sources for their income, but few receive donations from the public.
2. Assisting organisations to support their staff and volunteers: We will share learning and information from existing programmes to assist our members with providing adequate training and support for their staff and volunteers.
3. Proactively acting as a critical friend to decision makers: We will continue to proactively speak up on behalf of voluntary organisations and act as a critical friend to decision makers to highlight where the development and implementation of policy is likely to be prohibitive to someone’s rehabilitation.
What do we want to see from others?
As well as responding to the findings of the state of the sector research ourselves, there are things that we would like to see from other key stakeholders, which we developed in partnership with them. We have split these into three groups: voluntary organisations; charitable trusts and foundations; and government and criminal justice agencies. The following summarises our key asks:
Voluntary sector organisations should…
1. Continue to prioritise service user need: As the safety net for people in contact with the criminal justice system is shrinking, voluntary organisations services are more important than ever, and it is essential that they keep working to respond to and meet their service user’s needs.
2. Speak out on behalf of their service users: By speaking directly to decision makers and commissioners, voluntary organisations can influence decisions and change processes that might otherwise be detrimental to the needs of their service users.
3. Work collaboratively to reach shared goals: Voluntary organisations need to take proactive steps to facilitate positive partnership working, continuing to develop effective referral pathways and sharing resources between them.
Charitable trusts and foundations should…
1. Provide essential long-term grant funding for specialist criminal justice organisations: This funding will need to support core functions as well as service delivery and policy work. This will ensure the needs of marginalised and stigmatised groups are met by these specialist organisations.
2. Proactively support organisations to advocate on behalf of their service users: Charitable trusts and foundations can play a valuable role in this space, utilising their independence and the valuable evidence they gather from organisations to influence decision makers.
3. Work collaboratively to support the sector: Working to reduce the time organisations need to spend on submitting applications and reporting back to funders would enable organisations to remain focused on supporting the needs of their service users.
Government and criminal justice agencies should…
1. Work in partnership with voluntary organisations: It is important that the Ministry of Justice and other criminal justice agencies utilise the expertise of voluntary organisations through providing flexible but systematic routes for them to share intelligence about emerging needs, advocate for service improvements and support the development of transparent and proportionate commissioning and procurement processes.
2. Allow for innovation and reform: To support voluntary organisations to remain resilient, flexible and innovative the Ministry of Justice and criminal justice partners should allow organisations the space to continue to innovate and consider providing laboratory grant funding to enable organisations to test new approaches.
3. Recognise the value of small, specialist organisations: It is essential that the Ministry of Justice and criminal justice agencies recognise the importance of organisations providing specialist services to distinct groups and proactively work to support and nurture them through providing sustainable long-term grant funding, or find better ways to include them successfully in commissioning processes.
As with any recommendations paper, publishing it is the first stage in the process. We will work to promote the asks we have made to the key stakeholders identified in the paper and will report back on the progress we have made. We will also continue to monitor the health of voluntary organisations working in criminal justice, and will be launching our next state of the sector survey in the new year.
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The RR3 special interest group on Covid-19 will today convene voluntary sector leaders to discuss what is needed to mitigate the impacts of the virus on CJS voluntary organisations and the service users they support. We'll publish the key points from the discussion in a blog.